Field Days back with new fun

NEW HAVEN — The 63rd Addison County Fair & Field Days is set to kick off on Tuesday, Aug. 9, with a host of new entertainers and events joining the long list of activities returning from years past.
This year, the Vermont state animal — the Morgan horse — will be featured in the Morgan Horse Extravaganza, to be held on Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Donald C. Hunt Horse Arena. There will be 18 Morgan horses on hand to demonstrate the many talents of the breed.
According to event co-organizer Cassie Mayer, a strength of the Morgan breed is that it can be shown in such a wide variety of divisions.
“They’re so versatile … that’s really one of their best characteristics,” said Mayer, a rising junior at Mount Abraham Union High School. “They can do everything.”
She isn’t exaggerating: At the Extravaganza, spectators will have the chance to see Morgan horses demonstrating park saddle, English pleasure, hunter pleasure, jumping, Western pleasure, pleasure driving, carriage driving, combined driving and musical dressage.
Mayer expects the event to be “a lot of fun” and hopes that it will serve to dispel any notion that Morgan horses are a “crazy” breed — a reputation they have received, according to Mayer, for their unique style of movement which is higher-headed and higher-stepping than many breeds.
In truth, said Mayer, Morgans “are the most kind-spirited animals that you could ever come across,” and hopes that this will be evident at Wednesday’s Extravaganza.
“They can just be your backyard trail horse, and your best friend as well,” said Mayer. “They really do it all.”
For the show, Mayer said, Morgan horses will be coming from “every single corner of Vermont.” It will include two horses from the Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge: UVM Perlee will demonstrate pleasure driving, while UVM Quirrol will demonstrate pleasure saddle.
Several of the horses in the show are nationally recognized, including one who performed at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky last year.
The event, which Mayer hopes will become an annual mainstay at Field Days, is ultimately a chance for county residents to watch and admire the magnificent breed in action.
“They are the Vermont state animal,” said Mayer. “We’re just showing them off.”
There are plenty of other new additions to the fair this year that Field Days organizers are confident fairgoers will enjoy.
“There’s just so much … to get excited about,” said Field Days Board President James Foster Jr.
On Tuesday night, motocross riders who have performed 15-minute shows in past years will put on a full-fledged 90-minute CNC Freestyle Motocross Show following the always-popular tractor pull.
Thursday’s tug-of-war is not a new event, but will be moving in a new direction, according to Field Days Business Manager Cara Mullin. It will take place in the show tent, and feature two separate youth divisions. Teams of seven will compete for prizes that include trophies, ride tickets and passes to ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington or the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne.
For younger children, Saturday’s cupcake party might be the highlight of the week. At 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., kids will be invited to the Connor Home stage in the Paquette Building to make cupcakes, make arts and crafts and participate in skits.
Despite this year’s additions, fair organizers are keenly aware that Field Days’ annual traditions, such as the parade and No. 1 Auto Parts Demolition Derby, are a big reason why it continues to be such a popular event throughout the area.
“It’s (a) tradition … here in Addison County,” said Mullin. “This is something people look forward to as much as they look forward to Christmas.”
This year, the annual parade will pay tribute to the storied history of Addison County with its theme, “Honoring the Addison County townships celebrating 250th anniversaries.” The parade, which begins Tuesday night at 8 p.m., will feature several floats from individual town celebrations from throughout the year.
The evening bandstand performances will also return this year. On Wednesday evening at 7 p.m., the Chris Kleeman Band will perform. Kleeman is a blues musician who has played with famed blues guitarist B.B. King.
On Thursday night at 8 p.m., the Prydein Band will take the stage. The group plays  rock-and-roll that features bagpipes to provide a unique sound.
On Friday evening at 7 p.m., the bandstand will feature the Tim McGraw impersonator AllenAsTim, who, according to Mullin, “sounds exactly like” the famous country singer.
“It will be a great show,” said Mullin.
A Cornwall 4-H group and the University of Vermont Extension have teamed up to offer the public a chance to send cards and letters to men and women in the American forces overseas. The  card-making marathon will take place all week at the 4-H Youth Exhibit Hall (see related story).
Foster, who has been on the Field Days board for 14 years, said that he has seen the fair grow and evolve continuously, and that this year is no different. For the dairy showing, roughly 150 animals are signed up for the first half of the week, and nearly 120 for the second half.
“(Field Days) has grown tremendously,” said Foster, also noting that Field Days is the largest agricultural fair in Vermont. “That’s our goal (every year): to grow the fair.”
Foster believes that Field Days, which drew roughly 35,000 visits in 2010, is such a popular county tradition in part because it continues to offer a wealth of activities and events for a reasonable admission fee. Adult (over 12) admission is $8, while children ages 6 to 11 are $2 and children 5 and under get in for free.
“Where can you go for $8 (and experience) all the different activities that go on (at Field Days)?” said Foster. “You can’t go to the movies for $8, even if you don’t buy popcorn.”
Mullin believes that the fair is a great summer activity for all ages.
“It’s clean, wholesome fun,” said Mullin. “It’s a great family event. They base their vacations around it. (People) really look forward to congregating here, meeting with people they see once a year.”
Though organizing the event is a difficult task, there is a reason why Foster has been involved for as long as he has.
“You see a smile on a kid’s face,” he said, “and it makes it all worth it.”
Reporter Ian Trombulak is at [email protected].

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